Integrated pest management in orchards "as good for biodiversity as organic"

Integrated pest management in apple orchards is no worse for biodiversity than fully organic systems, according to new research from New Zealand.

Image: Reinhard Kraasch (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image: Reinhard Kraasch (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The research, funded by industry body Plant & Food Research, surveyed plants and a total of 210,000 insects caught in traps in 15 orchards in the Hawke’s Bay area of North Island.

It found orchards managed using the Integrated Fruit Production system, or IFP, had similar or even slightly better biodiversity index scores than the organic orchards.

The fauna in IFP orchards is just as rich as it is in organic orchards and that’s great news for the way we operate our orchards and for our brand overseas," research leader Dr Louise Malone said.

She added: "There were also no differences in the abundance and diversity of the key natural enemies that help to keep apple pests in check. This shows IFP is protecting those beneficial species as intended." 

Scientists and growers working with grower organisation New Zealand Apples & Pears developed the IFP system specifically to find ways to control pests that would have the lowest impact on the environment. Once proven in trials it was rapidly adopted in the country's commercial apple orchards in the late 1990s.

It employs a range of practices, including monitoring pest numbers with pheromone traps, to minimise chemical use, combined with targeted application of biological control agents.

New Zealand Apples & Pears technical manager Tim Herman said: "Export markets continue to challenge us to do better and minimise our environmental footprint, and this demonstrates that we are meeting their expectations."

The study is published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

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